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La Sonnambula

Home | La Sonnambula

Opera Background

ComposerVincenzo Bellini
LibrettistFelice Romani
Language Italian
Date of PremierMarch 6, 1831
Number of ActsTwo
Music Length Two Hours, Twenty Minutes

La Sonnambula (“The Sleepwalker” in English) was adapted from an 1827 ballet, and would go on to be one of Vincenzo Bellini’s staple operas.

Quick Answers

What is the story of La Sonnambula?

La Sonnambula is the story of a village girl (Amina) about to be married. She is found sleepwalking into another man’s room and is accused of unfaithfulness. Her to-be husband is enraged, and the village must then prove her innocence.

What does the sleepwalker represent in La Sonnambula?

The sleepwalker in La Sonnambula represents complete innocence and truthful speech in a time of uncertainty.

Where does La Sonnambula take place?

La Sonnambula takes place in a village in Switzerland


  • Amina (soprano)
  • Teresa, her mother (mezzo-soprano)
  • Elvino (tenor)
  • Count Rodolfo (bass)
  • Lisa, proprietress of an inn (soprano)
  • Alessio (bass)
  • Notary (tenor)

La Sonnambula Full Synopsis

Act 1 – Scene 1

Act one opens on a happy day in a small village, as it is to be the wedding of villagers Elvino and Amina. Villagers are heard singing their happiness for the wedding (“Viva! Viva! Viva! Viva! Amina!”). Lisa, the proprietress of the inn where the wedding will take place arrives and begins singing of her unhappiness (“Tutto e goia, tutto e festa” – “all is joy and merriment”), for she was engaged to Elvino before he left her for Amina.

“tutto e goia, tutto e festa” performed by Hannah Bradbury in 2015

Alessio arrives and begins in attempt to shower Lisa with love, but she is uninterested. Meanwhile, the rest of the wedding party arrives and sings praises for the lovely Amina (“Viva Amina!”). Amina takes center stage and gives thanks to all of the wedding guests (“Care compagne, e voi, teneri amici” – “Dear companions, and you, dear friends”). She sings to her mother, and continues to express her happiness and the significance of her wedding day (“Come per mi sereno oggi rinacque il di” – “As for me serene, today the day was reborn”), she also takes the chance to address her mother (“”Sovra il sen la man mi posa””).

Natalie Dessay performing”Come per mi sereno”

Alessio begins to tell Amina he has prepared everything for the wedding, including the music and the rest of the celebrations. She shows her appreciation and tells Alessio she is happy for him and Lisa, but Lisa claims she is happy alone, and that love often starts tender but has a bitter end (“Io più di tutti, o Amina” – “Me most of all, oh Amina”). The notary arrives and the group is getting nervous Elvino still hasn’t arrived. But soon they see him in the distance and announce he is coming.

Elvino arrives and apologizes for his tardiness (“Perdona, o mia diletta” – “Pardon me, my beloved”). He explains that he went to his mother’s grave to ask for her blessing, which he believes he received. They are delighted, and seeing everybody gathered they can start the wedding. The notary starts the ceremony (“Elvin che rechi alla tua sposa” – “Elvin, what do you bring to your bride”). Elvino gives a ring to Amina and they sing of their happiness in love and as newlyweds (“Prendi: l’anel ti dono” – “Take the ring I give you”)(“Scritti nel ciel già sono” – “Already written in the sky”). Elvino and Amina continue to have their first dance (“Ah! vorrei trovar parole” – “Ah! I would like to find words”).

Patrizia Cioffi (Amina) and Juan Diego Flórez (Elvino) performing Prendi l’anel ti dono at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden

Elvino tells Amina that the following day they will go to the temple for a holy ceremony, but is cut short by the noise of approaching horses (“Domani, appena aggiorni” – “First thing tomorrow”). Count Rodolfo arrives on the scene and asks how far it is to get to the castle (“Come noioso e lungo” – “How boring and long”). Lisa informs him it’s three miles of dark forest to the castle, and suggests he stays at her inn until the morning. Rodolfo looks at the Inn, and says he recognizes it. The crowd is curious who the man is. Rodolfo begins to sing about his memories of the mill and the forest (“Il mulino… il fonte… il bosco…” – “The mill… the fountain, the forest”). The Count inquires as to what’s being celebrated, to which the crowd answers it is Amina’s wedding day (“Vi ravviso o luoghi ameni” – “I recognize you or pleasant places”).

” Vi ravviso, o luoghi ameni ” performed by Michele Pertusi

Rodolfo asks to have a closer look at Amina, and compliments her beauty (“Tu non sai con quei begli occhi”). The rest of the villagers proclaim how polite and courteous the city-dwellers are (“E gentil leggiadra molto”). Count Rodolfo mentions a love of his long ago who bears a striking resemblance to Amina. Count Rodolfo is questioned further by Elvino, the Count explains that he had spent time in the castle as a child with the master of the castle (“Contezza del paese” – “Count of the Country”). Rodolfo is saddened when Lisa mentions the master has been dead for four years, and had a son who had disappeared from the castle at a young age. As the sun sets, the villagers grow concerned of a ghost that comes over the hill in a white dress at night and haunts the village (“A fosco cielo, a notte bruna” – “A gloomy sky, a dark night”). Amused and not intimidated by the story, Count Rodolfo expresses his interest in seeing this ghost. However Rodolfo say’s he has grown tired, and says his goodnights to the villagers, making a point to mention Amina again, and urges Elvino to love her like he would (“Basta così. Ciascuno si attenga” – “That’s enough. Goodnight to all”). Elvino is angered by the counts words, and once Elvino and Amina are left alone they quarrel over Elvino’s jealousy (“Elvino!… E me tu lasci” – “Elvino! And you’re leaving me”).

“Elvino! E me tu lasci” performed in Moscow in 2015

Elvino apologies for his severe jealousness, and promises to not let it happen again (“Son geloso del zefiro errante” – “I’m jealous of the wandering zephyr”).

Natalie Dessay and Juan Diego Flórez performing “son geloso del zefiro errante”

Having forgiven each other, Elvino and Amina say their goodnights (“Ah! costante nel tuo seno” – “Ah! constant in your breast”)

Act 1 – Scene 2

The curtains opens for scene two and we see Rodolfo at his room in the Inn. Lisa enters, making sure all is well, but also reveals to the Count that the whole village knows that he is indeed the lost son of the Count (“Davver, non mi dispiace” – “Truly, I do not mind”). She tells him that the village is preparing a celebration for him, and Lisa is pleased to be the first one to welcome him back. Rodolfo compliments Lisa’s beauty and starts to make advances to her. They are stopped by an approaching noise. As Lisa runs from the room she drops a handkerchief, which the Count picks up and places on the couch. The Count turns his attention to the approaching noise, and sees a woman draped in a white dress slowly moving towards him. He quickly realizes that it is a sleepwalking Amina (“Che veggio?” – “What’s this?”) and that she is the so-called ghost that everybody is afraid of.

“Che veggio” performed by Júlia Coelho (soprano) and Ben Worley (bass-baritone)

Count Rodolfo considers kissing Amina, who is dreaming of Elvino, but stops himself saying Amina does not deserve such treatment (“Oh ciel!… che tento?” – “Oh heavens! What am I trying”). A

mina, now on Rodolfo’s bed, dreams of her wedding ceremony before she falls asleep. Rodolfo, hearing approaching footsteps runs from the room. Outside of the window villagers have arrived to introduce themselves to the Count, but discuss the possibility of him seeping. They realize that on the bed is not the Count, but a woman! (“Osservate. L’uscio è aperto.” – “Look, the door is”). Lisa enters leading Elvino and Teresa into the room, and points to Lisa in the Count’s bed, telling Elvino to believe his eyes (“E menzogna” – “And a lie”). Amina wakes up with all the commotion, not knowing where she is or how she got there. She sees Elvino and rushes torwards him, but he tells her to go away and calls her a traitor. Amina falls into Teresa’s arms and they try to proclaim her innocence, but the villagers are saddened(“D’un pensiero e d’un accento” – “In my thought or in my words”).

“D’un pensiero e d’un accento” performed live

Elvino finally declares there will be no wedding (“Non più nozze” – “no more wedding”). Before the crowd scatters, Teresa picks up Lisa’s handkerchief.

Act 2 – Scene 1

Act 2 opens with the villagers walking in the woods on the way to see the count to plead Amina’s case (“Qui la selva è più folta” – “Here the forest is thicker”). They are remorseful and now feel that Amina is innocent.

“Qui la selva è più folta” performed in 2004

The villagers move on and Amina arrives with her mother, who she says is the only one still on her side. She sings of her sadness that Elvino has abandoned her, but her mother encourages her saying the Count will surely be moved by her tears (“Reggimi, o buona madre”). Elvino arrives with his head bowed, clearly depressed. Amina holds hope that maybe he still loves her, but Elvino tells her his heart is forever dead (“Vedi, o madre” – “See, oh mother”) .

“”Vedi, O Madre” performed at the Opéra La Bastille in Paris, 15/02/2010

The villagers return to the scene praising the Count (“Viva il Conte!” – “Long live the Count!”). They claim that the count has attested to Amina’s innocence. The villagers along with Teresa tell Elvino to let go of his anger, but he does not listen, and enraged takes the ring off of Amina’s finger and begins to walk away. He turns around, and says his final words to Amina, saying she will always be in his heart, but he cannot forgive her for her unfaithfulness (“Ah! perché non posso odiarti” – “Ah! because I can not hate you”). The villagers think Elvino is acting cruel, and urge him to speak to the Count to set things straight. Elvino does not listen, and runs off.

“Ah! perché non posso odiarti” performed by Juan Diego Florez

Act 2 – Scene 2

The villagers surround Lisa and congratulate her, as Elvino has decided to marry her (“A rallegrarci con te veniamo” – “To rejoice with you we come”). Everybody is joyous spare Alessio, who still loves Lisa. Elvino arrives, telling Lisa that the temple is prepared, and he is ready to make her his partner for life (“E fia pur vero, Elvino” – “And it’s true, Elvino”). But just as they prepare to leave, Count Rodolfo arrives. He tells Rodolfo that Amina is still worthy of his love, and explains that on that night she was walking, yet was still asleep (“Signor Conte, agli occhi miei” – “Mr. Count, in my eyes”). Elvino does not belive him, and the villagers are skeptical as well. Teresa arrives urging the crowd to quiet down as Amina needs rest after all she’s been through. Teresa sees Elvino and Lisa and is told they are to be married. Teresa is displeased, and Lisa tries to brush her off, claiming that at least she hasn’t been found alone in a man’s room. Angered, Teresa produced the handkerchief left behind by Lisa in the Count’s room that night.

Realizing that Lisa has lied to him, Elvino is disheartened (“Lisa mendace anch’essa!”). Elvino demands more proff from the Count, who says that Amina will prove it herself (“Signor?… che creder deggio?”) as he looks up in the distance. Amina rises from the window of the mill. All are stunned to see that she is sleepwalking (“Silenzio: un sol passo”). To the dismay of all the observers, Amina begins to walking across a dangerously unstable surface high above the mill. After finally reaching safety in the center of the stage, everybody is silenced. Amina, still sleeping, begins mourning the loss of Elvino (“Oh!… se una volta sola”, “Oh!… if only once”). Amina looks for her ring that Elvino removed from her hand, and mournfully sings of her loss (“Ah! non credea mirarti”). Elvino is touched.

“Ah! non credea mirarti” performed by Natalie Dessay

Still sleeping, Amina cries out to Elvino to return to her. Elvino can’t stand it any longer and after Rodolfo hands him the ring, he rushes to give it back to Amina (“Io più non reggo.” – “I can not stand anymore”). Amina wakes up, realizing that her dream has come true, claiming the two of them form a heaven of love (“Ah! non giunge uman pensiero”).